“The Rehearsal Dinner” worked, and it worked well.
It’s 22 hours before the wedding, and as its title tips off, the episode focuses on the events of a rehearsal dinner. Sort of. The majority of the episode was spent as a flashback told by Barney and Robin. He is in handcuffs in a laser tag office, and she is mad. We backtrack to see how we get there.
Barney has always wanted a laser tag wedding while Robin wanted to tie the knot in Canada. There are some interestingly crafted Canada jokes (always welcomed) thrown in the mix. The theme of the two having to compromise is presented as well as the fact that the two often prank each other in intricate ways. This leads Barney to believe Robin is tricking him with a boring rehearsal dinner, so he goes to a laser tag arena where he accosts a man by dousing his head in burning nacho cheese, leading to his arrest.
Meanwhile, Ted asks if he can play piano at the wedding, but the soon-to-be-wed couple only agree when Ted offers to dress like Liberace. Which he does. And it’s awesome. At this point, I feel the writers are putting in plots that they have wanted to write for years, but which had seemed too absurd for past seasons. Now that there is no reason to play it safe, they are coming up with some stupid stuff, but also some of the best stuff. This is one of the better ones. It turns out playing piano is hard, so he spends every Sunday night dressed as Liberace and watching football with his piano instructor.
Back in the present, the show touches on Lily’s inability to keep a secret, which leads to her revealing that Italy is off because Marshall took a position as a judge. Nothing really came of it this time, but the countdown to Marshall finally arriving at the wedding is drawing nearer. It has to happen sooner rather than later at this point.
After all of the flashbacks and subplots are drawn to a close, the episode smartly returns to Barney and Robin in the laser tag arena office. He’s somehow out of handcuffs and gives the most sadistically sweet speech he’s ever given. He says that he is going to lie to her a lot. But not to get away with cheating or anything bad. Instead, it will be to surprise her and make her life legendary. In fact, the entire episode up until this point has been a major misdirect. They’re not in a laser tag office, but in an ice skating rink. The walls come down and Barney reveals he brought Canada to her, and that is how they will celebrate their rehearsal dinner.
Alan Thicke makes an appearance to sing a Crash Test Dummies’ song as Barney reveals all of the aspects of Canada that he loves; including the one-quarter of it in himself and, of course, Robin most of all.
Overall the episode was impressive compared to previous efforts this season and brought back many of the things that worked so well when the show was at its peak. While a lot of the episodes are pretty bad, there are episodes like this that retain the magic the romantic comedy has captured time and time again.